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The Unknown Friendship
We met in second grade, well I was in second grade, and he was in third. It was at my friends’ birthday party. Thinking back, Catherine and I were really only friends because our names are spelled the same, but that was really cool in second grade. There were a lot of kids there, mostly girls from her old school and some for church. There were four boys sitting at the last table. I’ve always had a tendency to flock to boys. I never was into princesses and fashion. I started talking to a boy from her church. His name was Ben. We spent most of the party together, talking and making sure we were on the same team for games. When the party ended I said goodbye, thinking I’d never see him again.
In third grade Catherine had a sleepover for her birthday on a Friday night, but my parents said I couldn’t go since they were going to be out of town until Sunday afternoon and the party ended Saturday afternoon. Her parents offered to let me stay an extra night, so I went to her sleepover. Sunday morning we got up and I went to church with them. When we walked in the first person I saw was Ben. I didn’t know if he remembered me, but I talked to him anyway. Turns out he remembered me, so Catherine, Ben, and I sat together through church. Once again, I thought I wouldn’t see him again, so I said goodbye.
Over the next three years I saw him at various scouting events since he was a boy scout, and so is my brother. We mostly just waved to each other and eventually exchanged emails. We didn’t talk too much, just occasionally, but I considered him a friend, and he considered me a friend.
I had just finished seventh grade. He just finished eighth. It was June 11, 2008. My brother was at Little Souix Scout Ranch when a tornado hit. I was sitting at the kitchen table eating a sandwich when the sirens went off. My parents weren’t home, but we live in Nebraska. Tornado sirens go off all the time in spring and summer. We went down to the basement and when our parents came home, they joined us. Soon after the tornado sirens stopped in Omaha, my aunt called. She told us Little Souix, Iowa was just hit by an EF-3 tornado, and one of the shelters at the boy scout camp was destroyed. It was then that I realized I never told my brother goodbye before he left. I didn’t go upstairs when he left to give him a hug, because he goes camping all the time. My cousin was there too. I couldn’t even remember the last time I saw him. My dad and uncle started out on the 45-minute journey to the camp while my mom, sister, and I sat at home, watching for news updates and answering the phone.
“No, we haven’t heard anything.”
“Yes, we will call you when we know something.”
“Please stop calling every ten minutes. We’re waiting for him to call.”
After a long night of phone calls, unexpected visitors, and watching the news, my brother called at 1 am. He was okay and had only a minor scrape on his back from a bunkbed in the shelter he was in. His shelter was not the one hit. He informed us that my cousin was in the shelter with him and was also okay. At 3 am my dad finally brought him home. After hugs and we’re glad you’re okays we went to bed. When I woke up the next morning I came downstairs to the sound of the news and my brothers voice repeating his story over and over. It was then that I looked at the TV.
Four pictures with names under them flashed onto the screen. Twelve hours ago the news had mentions four fatalities, but the names and pictures could not be released because they were minors. My eyes skimmed the names and pictures one by one, feeling sympathy for the family and friends of each. I got to the fourth picture. I recognized the face but knew it had to be a mistake. I looked at the name. The name under the picture matched the fear that had suddenly went through my mind. The name was Ben. I never got to say goodbye.
Now that I’m older, I’ve realized funerals are for saying goodbyes, but I did not know that at the time. My heart sank when I saw his name, and I realized there was no one in my house to turn to. Why? It was because no one in my house knew about or friendship. When my parents asked if we wanted to go to any of the funerals, I suggested that we go to one out of respect, but my brother didn’t want to.
In August, I finally told my best friend, who is not longer my friend, but and enemy, about my friendship with Ben. She asked why I didn’t tell my parents. It’s because I didn’t have the strength. In October I received a friend request on facebook from Catherine, my friend I have not seen since fifth grade. I accepted it and started talking to her. At some point the Little Souix tornado came up. Neither one of us mentioned Ben.
I am a sophomore. He would be a junior. The school he would be going to is the biggest rival of my school. Every February I will think about Ben on my half birthday, remembering that it is his birthday. Every time I enter my neighborhood, I will drive past the Boy Scout Shop and see the memorial. Every night I will look out my window and see the four lights glowing on the memorial statue for Ben, Aaron, Josh, and Sam, and think of their families and friends. Every August when school starts I will remember that he is a grade ahead of me. Every time we play the school he should be attending right now, I will think of how we would be teasing each other about how much the other ones school sucks at a specific sport. Every June I will cry on the 11th remembering how important it is to enjoy time with my friends and family while they’re here. Every June on the 12th, I will feel the regret of not going to the funeral, not telling my parents about our friendship, and try to work up the courage to tell someone about how painful it is to loose someone, and not be able to have support from people you love. Everyday I will miss him. In memory of Aaron, Josh, and Sam, but most importantly, this is for you Ben.